By Matt Noonan
It’s been a few days – OK, a little over a week since the NCAA Division III college lacrosse season concluded, but before we officially say farewell to the 2022 season, I thought I would share a ten teams – five men and five women’s squads – that I believe could contend for a national championship next May.
Men’s D-III Lacrosse Teams to Watch in 2023
Bowdoin College: The Polar Bears were a team to watch this spring — hey, I thought they were the team that was going to win the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) crown last month. Despite ending their season in the quarterfinals against RIT, Bowdoin is certainly a squad to keep an eye on next spring. Coach Bill Mason will welcome back some key members of this year’s team, including Will Byrne (68 goals, 33 assists), Patrick Fitzgerald (53 goals, 16 assists), and Ethan Barnard (342 face-off wins) that will certainly help Bowdoin contend for both a conference and national title.
RIT: Coach Jake Coon and the 2022 Tigers joined an elite group of teams that captured back-to-back titles in NCAA D-III lacrosse history, but could they really contend for a third consecutive crown next spring? I believe they can, despite losing some talented upperclassmen, but if the Tigers are able to win their third-straight title, they would become the first team since Salisbury University to capture three-straight championships (Salisbury won three consecutive NCAA titles in 2003, 2004, and 2005).
Tufts University: The Jumbos’ run toward a national championship was quite exciting with the Powder Blue and Brown scoring two impressive postseason wins against St. John Fisher College and Salisbury. Tufts’ season concluded in the semifinals with a 26-15 setback to RIT. Like Bowdoin, Tufts will return some key pieces from its 19-win squad next spring that will certainly be players to watch, including Jack Boyden and Tommy Swank.
Union College: The Dutchmen’s run toward its first-ever national championship was exciting — can I say entertaining, as well? Union should be in the mix again next spring, despite graduating some key members of its 2022 squad. Dan Donahue will return between the pipes next season after an impressive second year with the squad that saw the Weston, Massachusetts native record a career-best 240 stops and 17 wins.
York College: Despite ending its season in the national semifinals, the Spartans run toward a championship was highlighted by two postseason victories over Christopher Newport and Southern Virginia. They will lose some key veterans that were either graduate students or seniors this spring, but will welcome back Ben Mayer, a first-year attack from Palm Harbor, Florida that led the Green and White with 90 points on 58 goals and 32 assists.
Others to watch: Albion College, Amherst College, Christopher Newport, Denison University, Dickinson College, Gettysburg College, RPI, Salisbury University, St. John Fisher, Wesleyan University, and Western New England
Women’s D-III Lacrosse Teams to Watch in 2023
Middlebury College: After being idle for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Panthers continued their previous momentum from 2019 and their first three matchups in 2020 by winning 22 of 23 contests this spring, including the national title game. Jane Earley guided Middlebury to its second title in three years, as well as its eighth in program history. Earley, who established new single-season records for goals (80) and points (99), will be one of many players to watch next year.
Salisbury University: Despite ending their 2022 campaign without some hardware, the Sea Gulls were once again a team to watch after finishing the 2021 season as national champions. Coach Jim Nestor will welcome back some key pieces from its 2021 and 2022 squads, including Erin Scannell, who led Salisbury with 55 goals, which should help Salisbury be in the mix for its fifth crown in program history.
The College of New Jersey (TCNJ): After scoring two impressive postseason wins over Salisbury University and SUNY Cortland last month, the Lions’ momentum vanished in the national semifinals with an 18-7 setback to Tufts. The loss, however, could help the Lions understand what they must do to contend for the program’s 14th national championship. TCNJ has not won a national championship since 2006.
Tufts University: For the second-straight season, coach Courtney Shute‘s Jumbos fell short of winning the program’s initial title. But perhaps this year’s defeat to Middlebury will be the inspiration to win the crown in 2023? Like every team, the Jumbos will graduate some key pieces from this year’s squad, including goalie Molly Laliberty and midfielder Anna Clarke.
Washington and Lee: The Generals ended their season by matching their program record for wins with 19. Washington and Lee saw its bid toward a national title conclude in the quarterfinals against Gettysburg College, but the loss will certainly fuel the Blue and White next season, which returns some impressive talent that has guided the unit to 33 wins in its last 37 contests.
Others to watch: Capital University, Colby College, Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg College, Ithaca College, Kenyon College, Pomona-Pitzer, Rhodes College, Roanoke College, SUNY Cortland, SUNY SUNY Geneseo, University of Chicago, Wesleyan University, and William Smith